FIREFIGHTERS tackled a blaze in a van on a quiet country lane near Winchester early yesterday.

Arson is suspected as the cause of the fire that wrecked a white Renault van parked on Port Lane between Oliver's Battery and Hursley at around midnight.

A crew from Winchester attended the fire near the entrance to Down Farm.

Crew manager Pete Broomfield, of Winchester Fire Station, said the signs were clear that the fire had been started deliberately. "Something was stuffed in the fuel pipe and it all smelt strongly of petrol."

The vehicle was loaded with assorted items.

The crew tackled it with two breathing apparatus. Their efforts were hampered because the vehicle was locked and they had to break in.

Police are investigating. The van was believed to have been stolen from Wolfe Close in Stanmore a couple of miles away. No arrests have been made.